Turtle Dreams

October. All Saints/Samhain dream:

I am slowly moving through a dark, soft, warm, place. There is no light, but I am not afraid. My hands are stretched out in front of me a little, but I have no real fear of falling because the nearby walls of this place are so soft I could not hurt myself. I move carefully forward, one step at a time. And then a disembodied voice, androgynous, asks kindly, “Whom do you seek here?” And I say, “The Ancient Turtle.”

I wake up, startled. It’s still dark, I’m warm in my cocoon of covers, but not as warm as in the dream. Michael is sound asleep beside me, turned on his side, one arm circling my waist. The dream is still alive in me. There is a luminescence to the colors in important dreams, a sense of the colors being more rich, alive with their own light. I turn on the little bed light to write it down. I’m over half way through the hand-made paper pages in the leather-covered dream book Michael gave me five years ago. He mutters. I say “”Important short dream.” He mutters something that sounds like “good”. We both know any dream is easy to forget by morning, and short dreams seem to lead to a new awareness.

Sitting up at sunrise, I can smell the coffee Michael is making in the kitchen.
the dream still alive in me. The morning light comes late now as we slide into winter. I sit up, swing my legs off the bed, tuck my feet in my fuzzy slippers, pick up my dream journal, and read over last night’s dream. There is still an excitement about it. Usually in an important dream there is a luminescence in the colors, the colors being alive with their own light. But since this dream was in the dark, it’s the sensuality of the warmth, the dark itself, being in the soft walls, the firm, neutral timbre of the voice asking the question. “Whom do you seek here?” and the response “The Ancient Turtle” that are the gigantic clues – if I can unpack them.

Michael comes in with my coffee, heavily creamed and sugared with a hazelnut lightener. I’ve been gaining weight again, but I’m not ready to give up my hazelnut coffee. Michael is beautiful to me, his red hair still tousled from sleep, his jeans unbuttoned, feet shoeless. “Ellen! You’re up!” he laughs, handing me my coffee and settling beside me with his own.

“I had a dream, Michael,” I say, and he chuckles.

“And I didn’t, or at least one I remember. Want to share yours?”

I read it to him. He looks thoughtful and asks to hear it again.

“What do you associate with turtles?” he asks, sipping his coffee, other hand on my knee.

“The voice of the turtle is heard in the land,” I quote, “from Ecclesiastes.

“Except it is “voice of the turtledove” in the new translations. Another case of clarity of translation ruining a great mystery.” He grins when I nod. “What else?”

“The Turtle and the Hare” – Uncle Remus? No, Aesop. The story where the turtle wins the race by being steady, though slow, and the rabbit, fast but over confident and cocky, loses.”

“When I think about turtles,” Michael says, anticipating me asking him, “I remember these trips to Missouri as a kid. Box turtles cross the roads in the spring by the hundreds, like a tide. Cars go by and squish them there’s so many the drivers can’t avoid it. We’d always rescue a few, and bring them home in cardboard box. I can feel their shell in my hand, their wrinkled legs wiggling in the air as I pick them up.”

“What happened to them?”

“Soup?” He laughs at my expression. “We would play with them until they wandered off. Except for the one that adopted our yard for a lot of years; may be there still. He would bury down in the flower gardens in the fall and hibernate all winter. We’d find him about the yard in the late spring.”

“I like that you had that turtle. And something else in your story resonates,” I say, finishing my coffee.


“Sea-going turtles are an endangered species.”

“Yep. And I’m sorry that’s true.”

“Turtle Dream or no, I’ve got to get going to get to work on time.”

“Yep. Helps that the kids are up, dressed and eating breakfast. Thanks for packing lunches last night. You OK with taking them to school?”

“Unless the school location shifted last night, it’s still on the way to the church. Why’d you ask?”

“It’s All Hallows at Lord Michael Archangel’s Church.” We both sigh. “Let me know what Reverend Tim says about the Turtle dream.” Michael takes my coffee cup, sets it down, gives me a real kiss, picks it up, and takes it back to the kitchen.

He’s right. It’s All Hallows, beginning tomorrow, Friday. The church where I work as counselor, Lord Michael Archangel’s Episcopal church, will celebrate. We honor the ancient roots with a pumpkin festival and costume dance. That’s followed by a solemn Mass for the Dead on Saturday, and then Sunday’s All Saints/All Souls services. All the dead of this year will be named in the services, named into the dimension of the ancestors. I’ve remembered two names I need to add to the list before Reverend Tim reviews it with me today.

I dress quickly. The kids are finished – I can hear the dishes clattering as they get dumped into the dishwasher.

“Mom?!” it’s the boy child at the door of the bedroom.

“I’m ready,” I say, hopping on one shoe, trying to put on the other.

“Sure you are,” says the girl child, but she’s laughing at me.


“Morning to you, Ellen,” Reverend Tim says. He gets up from his desk and gives me a hug. “Gracie is coming in a minute. How’d your morning sessions go?”

“Good Morning, Reverend Tim. Well, I think. Our divorcee is discovering who she is now, and likes who she is finding. The Brims and Wattson couple slated to get married at Christmas are almost opposite personality types, in case you hadn’t figured that out. They are OK with me telling you their Myers-Briggs types: Brims is ESTJ and Wattson is ENFJ. I’m focusing on life together after the wedding bliss settles into everyday patterns.”

“Well, thank you for that!” He sighs. “Opposites attract!”

“In this case for sure. And here’s my final list of those that died this year for the All Soul’s service.” He takes it from my hand, and goes to the window of his study to look at it, glancing out into the cloister garden from time to time. He’s built a little like Michael, tall and trim, but he’s thirty years older. His dark hair has a lot of silver threads. I hope Michael will be this healthy and active when we are in our sixties.

“Oh, good, you remembered Martha Godenaw. She died the day after All Soul’s Day last year. Perhaps it was the only time she was late for something in her life.” He sits down in the far chair of the pair that frame the window. They are a deep rose color, overstuffed velvet, given to the church by a redecorating parishioner twenty years ago. The minute he saw them he confiscated them for his office window seats.

“I checked the list against the funeral records in the sacristy. I included any one who had a service here, member or not.” I go to the oak round table at the other end of the room, also by a window that looks out on the cloister gardens. Stirred by a little breeze, red leaves are dropping from the maple tree outside the window into the garden bed and onto the paving stones. He finishes going over the list. “Thank you, I’ll give this to GraceAnn to insert in the program.”

“I sent her a copy already. That way she doesn’t have to retype them.”

“Oh, of course you did. Thanks. Habits! In this case too many years of handing a handwritten list to her. What about you? Any interesting dreams lately? That you want to share?” His hazel eyes twinkle at me. He loves my dreams, and I love his, and they inform our work together and our relationship. I am grateful every day for my work and my boss at Lord Michael Archangel’s church.

GraceAnn walks in wearing a turquoise dress that burnishes her dark skin. “You go right on with your dream, Ellen. My dream is that I will not in the whole rest of my years find Ancil Camadeno on the other end of my phone.” We laugh in sympathy with this dream. Then I tell the Turtle Dream, and give them my associations, including Michael’s pet turtle from Missouri story.

“Well, now, that’s a powerful dream,” GraceAnn says, her brown eyes tearful. I love turtles myself. The Ancient Turtle – now, wouldn’t She be something!”

Reverend Tim waits in case there is more, and then says, “Fascinating dream. Interesting associations. But there’s one I have that I’m surprised you didn’t include. You do know, don’t you, that the Native Americans believe this continent is on the back of Great Mother Turtle?” I look at him, shaking suddenly, and tears begin to roll down my cheeks. He hands me a handkerchief. “I guess not, ” he says, and they both grin at me.

Exploring the Archetype: All Hallows to Christmastide

Reverend Tim comes into my office a couple of days later with a funny green plastic toy turtle. Wound up, it walks, extending its neck from side to side. It makes me laugh, and I put it on my desk. I go upstairs to the church library, to the children’s section, and look for books on turtles. Usually kid’s books are a great place to do initial research because everything is pared down to the basics. In this case, however, the basics are how to make an aquarium right for the turtle and how to feed it – prosaic and practical information. I realize that is how I think about turtles, partly because of the Aesop story of a plugging along character. “Think about” is too strong a term. I’ve never paid any attention to turtles at all.

During Thanksgiving break our exercise class instructor, Halle, gets us moving through space along diagonal lines. I’m carrying more weight than I want, but I’ve stopped yo-yo dieting, and the movement class is helping muscle tone. Now she says “It’s a holiday time. Let’s do some free-form work. Take a recent dream, and move through the dance space as if you are in the dream.”

I close my eyes and start moving down the warm, soft, dark … what … hallway… very slowly. I hear people moving around me in the exercise room, but I don’t open my eyes. In my dream there is only my body moving – as if my body were the dreamer – not my mind – and my body delights in the discovery of diagonal space where before there was only linear.

“Whom do you seek here?” I hear the question being asked again. I get down on the floor and try to become the Ancient Turtle. I move my legs and my feet as if I am crawling across a road in Missouri or along a sandy shore. I’m not in an aquarium. It’s slow, tedious. Then, in my imagination, I crawl from the shore into the sea, and discover I’m a strong swimmer, with the same appendages that are so slow on land pulling me firmly, steadily through the water, mile after mile.

After the dance class I record this experience in my journal. The association I make is that the sea as an archetype is often the unconscious, and as a counselor I spend a lot of time swimming there. I feel something shift inside me from dancing, if you could call it that, the turtle across the floor. I decide I’m finally going to a nutritionist I’ve heard about through friends. At home, before I do anything else, I look up her number and make an appointment. Her name is Adelle.

Just before Christmas Michael shares a video article he’s found about the plight of the endangered sea-going turtles. They are creatures of instinct more than intelligence, and their instinct is to return again and again to the same place to lay eggs in the sand. Poachers harvest the eggs. Turtle protectors line the beaches to keep the poachers away, but sometimes it scares the turtles and they return to the sea without depositing their eggs.

The show moves on to fishing fleets with huge nets, the ones that drown dolphins. There are interviews with the environmentalists who are protecting the turtles and with the Gulf Coast fishermen. Who isn’t interviewed are the owners of the fleet corporation. The turtle people bring an innovation for the nets that will keep the fish, let the other creatures go. The fishermen tell them what won’t work about it. They bring the next idea and the fishermen tell them what’s wrong with this one also. The game goes on and on until finally the corporation is forced to install the safe nets. Then the environmentalists, hiring onto the boats as fishermen, discover the devices have been removed from the nets. They bring a legal suit. An ancient turtle is found washed up on the shore, cut open by the fishermen, the shell carved up in torture before death.

“Who are these people,” I wail. “Trolls? Why don’t they use traditional methods! Those worked for generations!”

Michael closes the show down.

“Some of these men were traditional fishermen. Traditional doesn’t work to supply the market of all the people switching off red meat.”

“It said on the program that the factory ships are finding fewer fish. Time is running out on that job too. They could work on one of the ocean-going fish farms – that’s a new industry.”

“Run by robots.”

“But soon there may be no turtles left!”

“The turtles are caught in a system problem. New turtle releasing nets don’t scratch the surface of a solution.”

“There speaks the system analyst!”

“You’re the counselor, Ellen. These men are frightened, so they are angry, and take it out on the environmentalists who care more about the turtles than them.”

“Well, what are we going to do?”

Michael loves complex problems, and those with no apparent answers fascinate him. While he thinks about it, later that day I join Greenpeace and make a donation.

New Year’s

Dream: I’m putting research together on turtles, lots of charts and graphs, articles, working with files of digitized information and library books piled on the floor and my desk. My task is to get a TREND established. The trend becomes clear, and I discover turtles are dying everywhere. Sitting at the computer I realize the price of turtles will go sky high. I decide to invest in turtles. It will be a short-term investment.

At church we three meet to create next year’s schedule. I report that I have an average of two appointments a day, plus the groups. “The dream interpretation group has twenty regulars… too many. I’ve been thinking of splitting it into two. Keep the Saturday AM group, and offer one late Thursday afternoon as well.”

“Come interpret your dream before choir practice?” Reverend Tim laughs. “Let me know how that goes.”

Gracie tells us the AA group Is requesting the upstairs large meeting room as their numbers are growing. “If the Altar Guild planning group moved to the library, we could accommodate the AA request.” She pauses and looks pointedly at Reverend Tim, who grins.

“I will pick up the phone this very moment and call our esteemed Altar Group chairperson.”

Leaving the meeting, GraceAnn says “You are looking slimmer, Ellen. That nutritionist working out?”

“She has changed everything about the way I eat.”

“I couldn’t help but notice. Do you mind if I use up the Hazelnut creamer?”

“It’s mostly all sugar, GraceAnn, but help yourself.”

Adelle, the nutritionist, has a thin body with a spine like she’s spent years in the military. She’s interviewed and muscle tested me. She identifies my Ayer Vedic type – Kapha. I now eat fruits, vegetables, proteins; red meat is infrequent, fish is preferred. No sugars. Only ancient grains. No milks. No ice in my water. Ginger tea. I’m to think light, think warm. Michael, who used to prepare every other meal, has quit cooking with the new regime. Steaming vegetables is too hard, I guess, resentful. My son and daughter don’t think much of the diet either.

I tell Adelle I can’t concentrate, that I feel like I’m floating, and it’s disturbing.

“Can you focus and concentrate when necessary?”

“Yes. But…’

“Your energy is shifting as you return to your natural lightness of being.”

“I feel like I’m flitting from one thing to another. I don’t settle down.”

She sits calmly, with her brown hair and eyes, and her voice that would calm a tornado. “Be open to experience life lightly. Wait and see. Let go of every responsibility. Soon you will want bok choy instead of chocolate.“

I look at her, sure she’s crazy.

At home I get out thin, crisp gingersnaps that truly snap when you bite into them. I almost finish the whole tin when, out of nowhere, I don’t want the cookies with as much energy as I just did before. I’m relieved that there is a limit – way out there, but a limit.

There is a Quaker newsletter in my mail at the office; they include a Query, or reflective question, in each letter. This one asks “Are you moderate in your standards of living, avoiding self-indulgence and display in the interest of simplicity? Do you consider sound and careful use of natural resources in determining your standard of living, being mindful of future generations?” I post it on the refrigerator at home next to a picture of a sea-turtle. Michael comes home, sees it, gives me a hug. My son comes over and reads it. He doesn’t comment. I suggest we make it our New Year’s Resolution. My daughter says “You can have it for your resolution, Mom.”

Epiphany, January 6th.
Gopher Dream (Go for It)
The rolypoly gopher works all night digging – she’s working so hard digging – clearing away all the dirt, and munching through the cement floor – she has it all done but one piece of cement floor that’s too hard to lift on her own. She’s all bright eyed when I come to see what’s gone on – so much work, such clear areas – the gopher’s pleased and happy and I’m amazed – but I do notice the piece that is too hard to lift on her own.

Adelle, the nutritionist, turns out to be a practicing Buddhist. Today she talks to me about an energy of will. “It you live by the world’s terms there is always a sense of inadequacy and that leads to adaptations. You have done that, and very well. However, now you are returning to your natural lightness of being.”

“I flit about, do this, do that, wanting to go eat something.”

“Ellen, when you are in the space between focus points, walk about, but not to the kitchen. Cultivate a rhythm of quieting, and a rhythm of playfulness. Experience what it is like to be present in the moment. Let the structure fall apart, the way you meet all life’s obligations.”

I find myself staring at her. I’m shocked to the core of my being. Slowly I realize she is not saying don’t meet life’s obligations. It’s how I meet them. To meet them in quietness and playfulness, not structure and schedules. I can hear my son saying “Lighten up, Mom” and my daughter “You work too hard, Mom”. And Michael’s mantra: “if it’s hard it must not be right.” I decide I will do nothing I don’t want to do. My family and Lord Michael Archangel’s church is fortunate that I like them and my work.

Epiphany to Imbolc

For the next two weeks every night I dream that I am wandering in an old house and continually reorganizing everything in it. I wake up exhausted. “Your air fire body is elemental,” the nutritionist says. “You are exploring the precision of discrimination. Ask yourself questions. What does this food taste like to me now? What is the potency of this food I am eating? If you eat sugar, remember you are stripping minerals from your body. Eat greens to restore them as soon as possible. Eat dessert first. “

That night for supper I steam greens, including bok choy, and bake a squash. Michael and the children look at the dinner they are being served. No one picks up a fork.

“Can we order a pizza?” my son asks, hopeful.

“Look. I’m cooking all the meals now. This is what I’m supposed to eat. This is what I WANT to eat. If you want to cook something else, or order pizza, feel free.”

“We want to support you, Ellen,” Michael says.

“Then start cooking again, and cook what I can eat.”

“I don’t think I’m a Kapha person.”

“Then find out what you are. Find out what you can eat. I’ll get you the nutritionist’s contact information.”

“Do we have to go too?” The children both look horrified.

“Why not?” Michael responds. “I’ll make the appointment for the three of us. But for tonight, if you don’t mind, Ellen, we will order pizza.” My son cheers, my daughter laughs, and I finish my meal while they wait. I go to the basement and do the laundry when the pizza comes.

The next night when Michael comes home he hands me a small clay turtle made and painted in the Pueblo style, with little children riding on it. It’s a “storyteller” turtle. I hold it in my hand and weep.

Michael turns out to be a Pitta, as are the children. They never gain weight. He makes a chart of the foods both Ayer Vedic types can eat. Then he buys a vegetarian cookbook, and the children go through it and select meals that look OK to them. Michael looks up the Medieval Humors and reads about them to us after the first dinner he makes. It’s as if finding it somewhere in Western science, even from centuries back, makes it more palatable. “We had four, not three. And they each had a special diet.”

Imbolc to Equinox

“I’m looking at myself in a mirror which reveals just how fat I am. I see my body, the fat around my waist, stomach, hips, lower legs and thighs, exaggerated until I’m obese. Beyond obese. I look like an early fertility goddess, or a Polynesian queen. I am filled with disgust at myself.”

I wake up, and can hardly write the dream down. I feel sick to my stomach. Michael stirs beside me, mumbling “Are you O.K.?” I say “Yes,” because I would never, never tell anyone this dream. However irrational, this is a great fear – to become so fat I can barely move. I step on the scales for the first time since I started the new way of eating. I’ve gained ten pounds.

On the way to the church for work I stop at the drugstore for a liquid diet. I plan to do this until these new ten pounds are gone. I am not going to lose ground. I put four six-packs on my food shelf, take one can, and put it on the kitchen sink. I’m remembering what it will taste like, and almost gag. Reverend Tim walks in, coffee cup in hand. He takes in the can, the look, the packs on the shelf.

“I can’t drink it. I gained ten pounds. But I’m standing here and I can’t drink it. I can’t think about dieting at all – I feel like my backbone is screaming at me.”

“If I’d gained ten pounds, I would feel shocked and hurt,” he says, pouring his coffee, and coming to stand beside me. Tears leak from the corners of my eyes.

“I am not obese.”

“I agree. You look great, you walk lightly, not like you’ve gained weight. You seem to feel a lot better on the Ayer Vedic diet.”

“I can’t control this; the thought of trying to control, to diet, makes me so nervous I could just scream.”

“Ignore the scales?”

“What if I just get fatter?”

“What if this is like Abraham’s test? You can’t know you won’t have to sacrifice your son Isaac, or the test of faith is a sham. Maybe this is a test to have real faith, Ellen. To believe in your choices, to trust this slow, prosaic turtle work you are doing.”

I sigh. “Anybody ever tell you what a fine priest you are?”

“Sometimes. More often people tell me what a good counselor you are, and how glad they are that we have you on staff.”

He wanders away and I fix my usual veggie omelet. I sit in the sun and eat slowly, savoring each bite. Slow, turtle eating. I don’t actually know how real turtles eat, I realize. But my omelet is delicious. After washing my dishes, I force the liquid diet can back into the six-pack holder. I will return them on the way home from work.

Going towards my office, GraceAnn motions me over to her desk. She’s on the phone with a parishioner, but hands me a beautifully wrapped package. It’s heavy. I sit down in the really uncomfortable straight back chair by her desk, chosen so people will get up, move on. I cut the white and black ribbon with a pair of scissors she hands me while still answering questions. Opening it, I unfold pieces of white and black tissue. Reaching in I lift out a white, soapstone turtle the size of my palm, heavily carved in a geometric pattern. “The African Ancient Turtle” she mouths at me. I hug her. In my office I put it on the plant table beside Reverend Tim’s green plastic one, and Michael’s storyteller turtle. There also is a small black turtle chipped from obsidian that my son found in Idaho, and has loaned me.

I was not always fat. There are pictures of me as a child, light and slim and full of laughter. I got fat when my mother came home from the hospital. I know that already, but now I think, “I put on fat like a shell.” Why do turtles have shells? Shells are protection. In all this time I have not thought of this obvious connection.

On the way home I go to our Zoo, which is east of the church about forty blocks, in City Park. It’s on the way home. I go into Tropical Discovery and sit on a bench across from where the turtles have been installed. Heavy plastic walls hold the pond water, and I watch real turtles in real shells in real water. They make slow turns, using their flippers, seeming to enjoy the slow flow of their body around the rocks and plants on the bottom of the aquarium. I look at the join between the flippers and the shell. The shell is part of the turtle, forming out of the softer flesh. They can’t crawl out of it and leave it behind; this is not a snail shell that the turtle will ever crawl out of and leave. I’ve seen videos of turtles pulling that soft flesh inside their shells when threatened. I sit on the bench and watch one until I can feel in my own body the way the appendages move with and around its shell. When I danced the turtle at exercise class I was not far off about that movement, but I was not in water. I was not graceful, like this turtle is. Hail, Turtle, full of grace.

When I tell my family about my day my son says “Throw the scales away.” My daughter says “Exercise more.” Michael says “I’ll walk with you after dinner.” And we did walk, the whole family. They all like that I went to the zoo, and they all like what I learned there.

At work the next day the divorcee says she wants to spread out her visits, so she can take time exploring what she is uncovering. I agree. Then the young couple announces they are going to postpone getting married for a year. Father Tim is relieved when I tell him.

At lunch I tell GraceAnn what insight her soapstone turtle gift brought me. She says “Come with me on Saturday to African Dance. It’s at 10 for an hour, down on Broadway about 12th. I’ll pick you at twenty-of, and we’ll go together.”

On Saturday at the studio GraceAnn takes out two long pieces of cloth, and shows me how to wrap mine around my waist. Hers is brightly colored, and mine is white cotton with a pattern of green turtles printed on it.

“Just listen to the drums, watch the woman who’s leading, and move,” GraceAnn says, and steps into a circle of woman. I follow. The drummers, three men in jeans and t-shirts, sit along the west wall, laying down the shifting rhythms. I find I can lose myself in the drum beat, and begin to move my body. I am very stiff about the hips compared to every one else. At various moments different women place their hands on my hips and show me how to loosen them up. I learn to move every muscle between my crotch and my neck in at least four different ways.

I begin to walk on the other days, as much as I can. I feel great. I don’t think I am losing weight, but my clothes fit better. Then I see a carved ivory-substitute turtle in the gift shop at the Zoo. It is like a netsuke, the little figure in the handle of a Japanese sword. The turtle is on one side, but when turned over, the God of Fortune is on the other. The great fat god of abundance is there grinning at you.

I buy it, and sit in the Museum Atrium, holding the Japanese turtle, turning it over and over in the palm of my hand, trying to understand the relationship between abundance and protection. I feel that I have hold of a Gordian Knot, and when I pull here it tightens there. But at least I have hold of it.

Equinox to Beltaine

Birthday dream: A creature comes into my dreamstate. The archetype is a turtle, but huge, shell-less. Grayish skin droops in folds as it galumphs around, upright, feeding voraciously. It has one idea – to eat. I let it come and try to communicate with it. It is interested in nothing besides eating. I am not horrified by it; if anything, I pity it. I don’t know what to feed it, to give it, so it can stop eating.

Michael says “The task may be to find something else it wants to do besides eat.” Reverend Tim says “I would honor it. It’s a primitive drive.” GraceAnn says “Dance its Dance.” I think these ideas won’t interest this insatiable creature, but at African dance I do try galumpfing about. The women are greatly amused and copy me as the drummers laugh out loud.

My aunt takes me for my birthday tea. She is having a layered custard and cream confection. I am having decaffeinated coffee with cream; the cream is now my bit of a splurge.

“But it’s your birthday,” she exclaims, all four feet ten of her sitting up, a little insulted.

“My birthday present is being here with you,” I say. “And I honestly didn’t see anything I wanted today. Not too long ago I wanted to eat everything on the tray!”

“Well, that diet you are doing must be working. You look great.”

I tell her about Galumpf the Insatiable.

“You do know that after you were born your mother breastfed you, but there was something wrong with the milk and you weren’t getting enough to eat? Actually, you were starving, but we all thought you were fed.”

I look at her. “Why haven’t I heard about this before?”

“You mother was ashamed, and we didn’t want to embarrass her so we never talked about it. But I did think you knew. I’m sorry.”

At my next appointment I tell Adelle, both about Galumpf and about my mother’s milk. “Galumpf is about that birth hunger, I think. What am I going to do? It’s huge. It can’t get enough to eat.”

“We’ve been teaching your body to speak. Now it has. You came through a narrow, austere passage. Now you are rewarded with abundance – generous gifts on both counts. Feel the austerity, the pressure, and feel the abundance of eating as much of your good foods as you like. Feel the abundance of taste – in kale.” She laughs.

“I have to carry this creature with me. This creature is me, when I’m eating unconsciously, just stuffing my mouth.”

“You are teaching Galumpf to talk, to dance. Intentional living. Yes or No at every moment in Free Will. Allow all options. Test your desires against the fabric of your being.”

I take notes on these sessions with Adelle because there is no way I can remember the teaching otherwise. Her words slide down into my unconscious. Maybe Galumpf remembers them but if I don’t read them over, and aloud, each day, I forget. I do realize that the threads of the Gordian knot are becoming more visible, but they are not unraveling. I have to fight to keep the separate threads in my head. That night I wake up at two o’clock. I want bok choy. I stagger to the kitchen, and make myself a small helping, flavoring it slices of ginger.


Dream: I am myself, and feeling young and full of whimsy – fire energy – and looking slim in jeans and a pretty blouse, leather belt. In the first part of the dream is a short man with red-blond hair, in a blue suit and wild tie; his is a more extraverted personality. He tells me his name is Sandy, and he asks me out for coffee the next week. The door opens before I can answer, and a dark man built in the square Ute pattern comes in. He’s in jeans, white shirt unbuttoned at the collar with a red scarf around his throat, belt with white shells on it, long dark hair, no headband. He speaks in a quite tone, and his dark eyes seem to see through me, with love and amused affection. I have an instant attraction to him; I am aware that I could melt into this man, “lose myself in loving”.

He asks me out – right now – and takes me to a place that is like Bar-B-Q land, only the woman who is there serves us herring pickled in sour cream, and accompanying foods. We are laughing with her, and I’m eating the herring with gusto, with my fingers, when Sandy comes in, a woman on his arm. He introduces his wife. I really like Sandy’s wife. I look at my date, who is laughing with Sandy. I realize he makes no judgments.

Watering the plants at the office I look at the turtles on the table. There are a lot of them. I am wearing a blue sweater with a sea turtle embroidered on both pockets, a Christmas present from my daughter, and a pair of turtle earrings my divorcee client gave me. I pick up the white soapstone turtle, remembering my dream. I’m happy. I’m going slower in the outer world, more sure of myself in the inner one. I eat a slightly broader list of foods, but when I don’t feel well, I go back to the narrow path.

I’ve remember that part of the Gordian thread of protection is what I want to be protected from… dominant, aggressive moments when someone is demanding something from me. Or lying men like Sandy in the dream. I was miserable in school, miserable at home. I don’t like remembering all this. Everything is rising into conscious; it is a gift so that I can understand how I needed protection. I am so vulnerable, so easily hurt. When hurt by other people’s view of me, I lose trust in myself. This is the cancer of the middle grades. The comfort is food. I am learning Abundance is not a lot of food.

Dream: A headline in a newspaper: “This woman should eat only fruit until lunch or she’ll lose her sex drive”.

After hearing the dream Adelle suggests a liver cleanse.

“A what?”

“A liver cleanse. Your body is a series of interlinked systems. They work very hard to get everything done just right. Once in awhile you do a cleanse – eat things that help the whole system and don’t make it work too hard. It’s time to give your liver a boost.”

“What exactly do I have to do?” What can possibly be beyond the austerity of my diet?

“You would eat vegetables only. A few garbanzo beans or a tiny amount of fish with a salad – very small servings – a sweet potato if you get really hungry. There is a supplement to take, Liver Quintessence, plus four spirulena tablets three times a day. Plus milk thistle, which is the cleanser. Broth soups are O.K. It’s a fast. If you feel ungrounded, call me.”

Here I am, with the galumphing creature in my spine, undertaking a fast. The second day I call her. “Adelle, I can’t. I’m hungry all the time.”

“You are made of much finer molecules today than you were two days ago. When you are hungry, journal. Write down what you are thinking, feeling. Call me if you feel ungrounded.”

I feel I am at war with myself. I try to lighten up, get some distance. It’s not a fight for control. It’s a fight to stay conscious.

Michael tells me the galumphing creature’s name is Ancestral Igora, and its sole job is to keep what’s unconscious, unconscious. He hands me a small bouquet of roses, with a poem about fasting attached. The poem is titled Fasting, by Rumi. The task is to be empty, like a flute.

Dream: I am back in the party apartment. My husband, my children, Reverend Timothy, GraceAnn, all our friends and many parishioners are there. His belt sports a large buckle with a white shell turtle pattern on it. He is White Turtle. He is articulate, wise, and funny. We are obviously attracted to each other, and everyone is very happy that we have hit it off.

Now there is a sliding patio door behind White Turtle, and he opens it and goes out, motioning for me to come with him. We walk up the hill and it isn’t in the city; it’s a rise of tall grass prairie, cresting on sweeping horizon, with no tree anywhere. Just over the rise, we stop, and look down at a white hogan built in the middle of the grassy fields. The white walls rise, almost like a yurt’s, and flow towards the smoke hole. There’s a chimney to a fireplace coming out of one side and I think, “Good, a kitchen, ” as I walk towards it. A red narrow flag is tied to one of the entrance poles. Far away the mountains are visible, snow on them, clean. White Turtle is walking behind me, and I feel him waiting, a sense of warmth with watching awareness. I enter the hogan. As I go in I am amazed at the flowing whiteness of the place within – it’s spacious and clean and soft – soft walls with white pine lodge poles, and a ceiling flowing, draped to the smoke hole where blue sky peers through. Behind me now is the bed, where we lie down, with this beauty stretching away around us.

I wake up at that point. Michael wakes up also, and we talk about the dream, and White Turtle. He suggests White Turtle is Ancestral Igora transformed. I want to believe it.

Later that day I call Adelle and tell her I think I am going to float away, sometimes, during the day. My thoughts are scattered like thistledown.

“Well, we have two weeks to go,” she says. “Roast some grains before you add water to them, then add some sesame seeds to the gruel. Eat just a little of it when the ungrounded feeling is very unsettling. Try to get used to the feeling.”

I make the roasted grains. They help. The last week she has me add in root vegetables. I love beets.

Lughnasadah: Sacred Wedding

I am back at the apartment. At the party is a young cowgirl who admits to smoking as she lights up. I say – “Not around me, please”. White Turtle looks at her, takes the cigarette, and says “Never again. Be healthy.” And the cowgirl quits.

White Turtle has food for us in brown paper sacks marked Health Food Store. We go out the sliding doors, and walk toward the hogan, the mountains open and gleaming in the distance. It’s getting dark now, and a full moon rises as we walk. I go into the hogan and we put the food away in white pine cupboards. It is good food and everything I like and plenty of it. There is all the time in the world – we are in turtle’s shell – and when he begins to make love to me I can see the stars as if the roof of the hogan disappeared. He is gentle and firm, his hands on my body. We say together, “I love you. I’ve been waiting for you my whole life”. He begins to touch me, hold me, kiss me. He is so solid and still and earth. I am lightness and fire. Looking into his dark eyes, I know that I don’t want to ever leave him; he is the Beloved, the Soul’s Lover.

I dream
     Turtle in me.
Waking –
     There are drums.

“What’s the protocol,” Michael asks when I tell him the dream. “I mean, am I still your husband?” He thumps his chest like a lightweight caveman. “Do we get to make love still?”

“Let’s see. Should I get him checked for diseases so we know we’re both safe?”

Michael chuckles. “O.K. It’s a dream lover. Do I need to be jealous?”

“I think you are my real husband, in the real world, in our real house. Though we might decide to go away for the weekend, and let our children go to my aunt’s.”

My real husband grins at me. “I can clear my calendar. You call your aunt. I’ll call our retreat B&B. Unless you want to try a new place?”

“And miss their homegrown bacon? I don’t think so.”

When Michael makes love to with me, as he touches me, pleasures me, my body trembles with joy. As my climax comes it is a if I am a shell-less creature swimming in the center of the sea, with a horizon of light, perhaps dawn, all around me, surrounding me, lifting me into itself.

Samhain – All Soul’s

I’m moving slowly through a cave of white rock – very light, painted walls. I am a white turtle, with deep blue swirls etched in the shell, and I’m carrying a bowl of blue turquoise on my back. Drums are sounding a beat from somewhere outside the cave, maybe on a nearby hillside. I walk quickly, lightly, to the rhythm, but not rushed in any way. I am serious and focused but not unhappy.

I walk out of the cave onto the sea. I’m standing on the sea in a long, white dress, when a wedding party rows by. The bride offers me some flowers from her bouquet – I choose white gladioli with a blush of salmon in the throats, and red flowers for accents. I walk on, holding the flowers, the sun dancing on the waves around me.